Helping Children Process Traumatic Events
Monday, August 12, 2019
The traumatic events over the past few weeks have been difficult to process. We can try to shield children from the news and current events; however they hear and see more than we think! What can we do to reassure children that they are safe? How can we explain what is going on in the world and why? Below are some tips from The Child Mind Institute. Remember that you as parents and caregivers provide consistency and safety for your children. We at Children, Inc. are here to support you with these efforts.
See https://childmind.org/ for some age-specific tips!
- Give them a hug: Physical touch can make a big difference. Extra cuddling, hugs, or just a reassuring pat on the back can go a long way!
- Act calm: Traumatic events may leave you anxious, frustrated, and scared, but try not to voice these feelings with your children. Be aware of the tone of your voice and try to remain calm and comforting.
- Share information: Chances are they probably will be exposed to information about the event from somewhere, so it is best to learn details from a safe and trusted adult. Be brief and honest, and allow them to ask questions. It’s okay to say you don’t know an answer- there is no “right” answer sometimes.
- Prevent or limit exposure: Try to limit exposure, especially with toddlers and younger children. Seeing disturbing events on TV or listening to them can be triggering. It can make them feel like these events will last forever and that idea can increase anxiety.
- Maintain the status quo: Routines provide consistency and safety, especially when there is chaos going on in the world around us. Try to have regular mealtimes and bedtimes, and stick to your family rules.
- Children cope in different ways: Your child may not have processed these emotions before. Some children may not want to be alone; some may want to spend extra time alone. Let them know it is okay to feel these feelings- anger, guilt, sadness, and you can express them in many ways.
- It’s okay to not be okay: It is important to hear from your child what they find troubling or confusing. This is not a time to lecture; but a time to let them know that their feelings and questions are valid.
- Help reduce stress: Lead children in relaxing by taking some deep breathes. Try saying “Let’s breathe in slowly while I count to three, and then breathe out while I count to three.”
- Do something fun: Sometimes distractions can be a good source of joy. It can help provide a sense of normalcy, and gets their mind off of the traumatic event. Plan a fun family activity or play their favorite game.
- You can’t fill from an empty bucket: Traumatic events can release a lot of big feelings for you as well. Take care of yourself. If you are not at your best, this can affect the people around you— especially your children. Try to do something that you find relaxing like taking a walk, enjoying a bubble bath, or even just taking a few deep breaths. There are so many self-care activities out there, but try to find one that fills you up.
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